Welcome to MSF Field Research

 

MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.

 

Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
Programme Descriptions
Research Resources

 

  • Measuring the unknown: an estimator and simulation study for assessing case reporting during epidemics

    Jarvis, CI; Gimma, A; Finger, F; Morris, TP; Thompson, JA; de Waroux, OlP; Edmunds, WJ; Funk, S; Jombart, T (bioRxiv, 2021-12-17)
    The fraction of cases reported, known as ‘reporting’, is a key performance indicator in an outbreak response, and an essential factor to consider when modelling epidemics and assessing their impact on populations. Unfortunately, its estimation is inherently difficult, as it relates to the part of an epidemic which is, by definition, not observed. We introduce a simple statistical method for estimating reporting, initially developed for the response to Ebola in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2018-2020. This approach uses transmission chain data typically gathered through case investigation and contact tracing, and uses the proportion of investigated cases with a known, reported infector as a proxy for reporting. Using simulated epidemics, we study how this method performs for different outbreak sizes and reporting levels. Results suggest that our method has low bias, reasonable precision, and despite sub-optimal coverage, usually provides estimates within close range (5-10%) of the true value. Being fast and simple, this method could be useful for estimating reporting in real-time in settings where person-to-person transmission is the main driver of the epidemic, and where case investigation is routinely performed as part of surveillance and contact tracing activities.
  • Characteristics, utilisation and influence of viewpoint articles from the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT) – 2009-2020

    Khogali, M; Tayler-Smith, K; Harries, AD; Zachariah, R; Kumar, A; Davtyan, H; Satyanarayana, S; Denisiuk, O; van Griensven, J; Reid, A; et al. (F1000Research, 2021-03-21)
    Background: The Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT) teaches the practical skills of conducting and publishing operational research (OR) to influence health policy and/or practice. In addition to original research articles, viewpoint articles are also produced and published as secondary outputs of SORT IT courses. We assessed the characteristics, use and influence of viewpoint articles derived from all SORT IT courses. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study involving all published viewpoint articles derived from the SORT IT courses held from August 2009 - March 2020. Characteristics of these papers were sourced from the papers themselves and from SORT-IT members involved in writing the papers. Data on use were sourced from the metrics provided on the online publishing platforms and from Google Scholar. Influence on policy and practice was self-assessed by the authors of the papers and was performed only for papers deemed to be ‘calls for action’. Results: A total of 41 viewpoint papers were published. Of these, 15 (37%) were ‘calls for action’. In total, 31 (76%) were published in open-access journals and the remaining 10 in delayed access journals. In 12 (29%) of the papers, first authors were from low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Female authors (54%) were included in 22, but only four (10%) and two (5%) of first and last authors respectively, were female. Only seven (17%) papers had available data regarding online views and downloads. The median citation score for the papers was four (IQR 1-9). Of the 15 ‘call for action’ papers, six influenced OR capacity building, two influenced policy and practice, and three influenced both OR capacity building within SORT IT and policy and practice. Conclusion: Viewpoint articles generated during SORT IT courses appear to complement original OR studies and are valued contributors to the dissemination of OR practices in LMICs.
  • Impact of systematic early tuberculosis detection using Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra in children with severe pneumonia in high tuberculosis burden countries (TB-Speed pneumonia): a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial.

    Vessiere, A; Font, H; Gabillard, D; Adonis-Koffi, L; Borand, L; Chabala, C; Khosa, C; Mavale, S; Moh, R; Mulenga, V; et al. (BMC, 2021-03-20)
    Background: In high tuberculosis (TB) burden settings, there is growing evidence that TB is common in children with pneumonia, the leading cause of death in children under 5 years worldwide. The current WHO standard of care (SOC) for young children with pneumonia considers a diagnosis of TB only if the child has a history of prolonged symptoms or fails to respond to antibiotic treatments. As a result, many children with TB-associated severe pneumonia are currently missed or diagnosed too late. We therefore propose a diagnostic trial to assess the impact on mortality of adding the systematic early detection of TB using Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra (Ultra) performed on nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPA) and stool samples to the WHO SOC for children with severe pneumonia, followed by immediate initiation of anti-TB treatment in children testing positive on any of the samples. Methods: TB-Speed Pneumonia is a pragmatic stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trial conducted in six countries with high TB incidence rate (Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia and Cambodia). We will enrol 3780 children under 5 years presenting with WHO-defined severe pneumonia across 15 hospitals over 18 months. All hospitals will start managing children using the WHO SOC for severe pneumonia; one hospital will be randomly selected to switch to the intervention every 5 weeks. The intervention consists of the WHO SOC plus rapid TB detection on the day of admission using Ultra performed on 1 nasopharyngeal aspirate and 1 stool sample. All children will be followed for 3 months, with systematic trial visits at day 3, discharge, 2 weeks post-discharge, and week 12. The primary endpoint is all-cause mortality 12 weeks after inclusion. Qualitative and health economic evaluations are embedded in the trial. Discussion: In addition to testing the main hypothesis that molecular detection and early treatment will reduce TB mortality in children, the strength of such pragmatic research is that it provides some evidence regarding the feasibility of the intervention as part of routine care. Should this intervention be successful, safe and well tolerated, it could be systematically implemented at district hospital level where children with severe pneumonia are referred.
  • Decentralised hepatitis C testing and treatment in rural Cambodia: evaluation of a simplified service model integrated in an existing public health system.

    Zhang, M; O'Keefe, D; Craig, J; Samley, K; Bunreth, V; Jolivet, P; Balkan, S; Marquardt, T; Dousset, JP; Le Paih, M (Elsevier, 2021-03-18)
    Background: Direct-acting antiviral treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has provided the opportunity for simplified models of care delivered in decentralised settings by non-specialist clinical personnel. However, in low-income and middle-income countries, increasing overall access to HCV care remains an ongoing issue, particularly for populations outside of urban centres. We therefore aimed to implement a simplified model of HCV care via decentralised health services within a rural health operational district in Battambang province, Cambodia. Methods: The study cohort included adult residents (≥18 years) of the health operational district of Moung Russei who were voluntarily screened at 13 local health centres. Serology testing was done by a rapid diagnostic test using SD Bioline HCV (SD Bioline HCV, Standard Diagnostics, South Korea) with capillary blood. HCV viral load testing was done by GeneXpert (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA, USA). Viraemic patients (HCV viral load ≥10 IU/mL) received pretreatment assessment by a general physician and minimal treatment evaluation tests at the health operational district referral hospital. Viraemic patients who did not have additional complications received all HCV care follow-up at the local health centres, provided by nursing staff, and patients who had decompensated cirrhosis, previously treated with a direct-acting antiviral, HBV co-infection, or other comorbidities requiring observation continued receiving care at the referral hospital with a general physician. Patients deemed eligible for treatment were prescribed oral sofosbuvir (400 mg) and daclatasvir (60 mg) once a day for 12 weeks, or 24 weeks for patients with decompensated cirrhosis or those previously treated with a direct-acting antiviral. HCV cure was defined as sustained virological response at 12 weeks after treatment (HCV viral load <10 IU/mL). Patients were assessed for serious and non-serious adverse events at any time between treatment initiation and 12 weeks post-treatment testing. Findings: Between March 12, 2018, and Jan 18, 2019, 10 425 residents (ie, 7·6% of the estimated 136 571 adults in the health operational district of Moung Russei) were screened. Of those patients screened, the median age was 44 years (IQR 31-55) and 778 (7·5%) were HCV-antibody positive. 761 (97·8%) of 778 antibody-positive patients received HCV viral load testing, and 540 (71·0%) of those tested were HCV viraemic. Among these 540 patients, linkage to treatment and follow-up care was high, with 533 (98·7%) attending a baseline consultation at the HCV clinic, of whom 530 (99·4%) initiated treatment. 485 (91·5%) of 530 patients who initiated treatment received follow-up at a health centre and 45 (8·5%) were followed up at the referral hospital. Of the 530 patients who initiated direct-acting antiviral therapy, 515 (97·2%) completed treatment. Subsequently, 466 (90·5%) of 515 patients completed follow-up, and 459 (98·5%) of 466 achieved a sustained virological response at 12 weeks after treatment. Two (0·4%) adverse events (fatigue [n=1] and stomach upset [n=1]) and five (0·9%) serious adverse events (infection [n=2], cardiovascular disease [n=1], and panic attack [n=1], with data missing for one of the causes of serious adverse events) were reported among patients who initiated treatment. All serious adverse events were deemed to be unrelated to therapy. Interpretation: This pilot project showed that a highly simplified, decentralised model of HCV care can be integrated within a rural public health system in a low-income or middle-income country, while maintaining high patient retention, treatment efficacy, and safety. The project delivered care via accessible, decentralised primary health centres, using non-specialist clinical staff, thereby enhancing the efficient use of limited resources and maximising the potential to test and treat individuals living with HCV infection.
  • Decentralized hepatitis C testing and treatment in rural Cambodia: evaluation of a simplified service model integrated in an existing public health system

    Zhang, M; O'Keefe, D; Craig, J; Samley, K; Bunreth, V; Jolivet, P; Balkan, S; Marquardt, T; Dousset, JP; Le Paih, M (Elsevier, 2021-03-18)
    Background Direct-acting antiviral treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has provided the opportunity for simplified models of care delivered in decentralised settings by non-specialist clinical personnel. However, in low-income and middle-income countries, increasing overall access to HCV care remains an ongoing issue, particularly for populations outside of urban centres. We therefore aimed to implement a simplified model of HCV care via decentralised health services within a rural health operational district in Battambang province, Cambodia. Methods The study cohort included adult residents (≥18 years) of the health operational district of Moung Russei who were voluntarily screened at 13 local health centres. Serology testing was done by a rapid diagnostic test using SD Bioline HCV (SD Bioline HCV, Standard Diagnostics, South Korea) with capillary blood. HCV viral load testing was done by GeneXpert (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA, USA). Viraemic patients (HCV viral load ≥10 IU/mL) received pretreatment assessment by a general physician and minimal treatment evaluation tests at the health operational district referral hospital. Viraemic patients who did not have additional complications received all HCV care follow-up at the local health centres, provided by nursing staff, and patients who had decompensated cirrhosis, previously treated with a direct-acting antiviral, HBV co-infection, or other comorbidities requiring observation continued receiving care at the referral hospital with a general physician. Patients deemed eligible for treatment were prescribed oral sofosbuvir (400 mg) and daclatasvir (60 mg) once a day for 12 weeks, or 24 weeks for patients with decompensated cirrhosis or those previously treated with a direct-acting antiviral. HCV cure was defined as sustained virological response at 12 weeks after treatment (HCV viral load <10 IU/mL). Patients were assessed for serious and non-serious adverse events at any time between treatment initiation and 12 weeks post-treatment testing. Findings Between March 12, 2018, and Jan 18, 2019, 10 425 residents (ie, 7·6% of the estimated 136 571 adults in the health operational district of Moung Russei) were screened. Of those patients screened, the median age was 44 years (IQR 31–55) and 778 (7·5%) were HCV-antibody positive. 761 (97·8%) of 778 antibody-positive patients received HCV viral load testing, and 540 (71·0%) of those tested were HCV viraemic. Among these 540 patients, linkage to treatment and follow-up care was high, with 533 (98·7%) attending a baseline consultation at the HCV clinic, of whom 530 (99·4%) initiated treatment. 485 (91·5%) of 530 patients who initiated treatment received follow-up at a health centre and 45 (8·5%) were followed up at the referral hospital. Of the 530 patients who initiated direct-acting antiviral therapy, 515 (97·2%) completed treatment. Subsequently, 466 (90·5%) of 515 patients completed follow-up, and 459 (98·5%) of 466 achieved a sustained virological response at 12 weeks after treatment. Two (0·4%) adverse events (fatigue [n=1] and stomach upset [n=1]) and five (0·9%) serious adverse events (infection [n=2], cardiovascular disease [n=1], and panic attack [n=1], with data missing for one of the causes of serious adverse events) were reported among patients who initiated treatment. All serious adverse events were deemed to be unrelated to therapy. Interpretation This pilot project showed that a highly simplified, decentralised model of HCV care can be integrated within a rural public health system in a low-income or middle-income country, while maintaining high patient retention, treatment efficacy, and safety. The project delivered care via accessible, decentralised primary health centres, using non-specialist clinical staff, thereby enhancing the efficient use of limited resources and maximising the potential to test and treat individuals living with HCV infection.

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